Vasek Pospisil says he is "truly sorry" after launching an expletive-laden rant at the Miami Open, having reportedly been left in tears following a meeting with ATP executives hours before.
The Canadian saw his campaign at the Masters 1000 event ended in the first round as he was beaten in three sets by Mackenzie McDonald.
But the result was not the talking point from the contest, rather an outburst from Pospisil at the end of the first set.
‘I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to play again’ - Murray on Olympic exit
The world No 67 had already looked frustrated before he smashed a racquet and then lost the set after a point penalty for a second violation.
Returning to his chair, Pospisil then told umpire Arnaud Gabas: "An hour and a half yesterday, the chair of the ATP f---ing screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players. For an hour and a half. The leader of the ATP. Get him out here. F------ a------."
Gabas replied: "That’s enough. If you need to say something to him, then outside this court."
Pospisil then said: "Why am I here? If you want to default me I’ll gladly sue this whole organisation."
The background to the episode is Pospisil is one of the co-founders of the Professional Tennis Players Association, which is a breakaway group that is supposed to rival the ATP (the organisation that runs the men’s tour) and give players more of a voice in certain aspects of the tour.
The other co-founder of the group is world No 1 Novak Djokovic, but he is not in Miami, so Pospisil was presumably leading the meetings with ATP president Andrea Gaudenzi and other executives this week.
The Daily Telegraph reports that several days of meetings “failed to produce a united platform from which the players could challenge the ATP leadership”. Among the topics of discussion were prize money, which has been significantly reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the frozen rankings and the bubble systems at tournaments.
Then, at the meeting on Tuesday evening, 24 hours before Pospisil’s first-round match against McDonald, is when things really reportedly kicked off.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic (L) and Canada's Vasek Pospisil shake hands after the draw for the Davis Cup semi-finals in Belgrade (Reuters)
Image credit: Reuters
Canadian website Open Court, citing a "reliable source", say that the meeting got heated to the point that Pospisil was left "in tears, and that even just before he took the court today to play his match, he was still shaken up."
Following the match, Pospisil admitted on Twitter that he had been “unnerved” by the meeting.
"I want to sincerely apologise for my behaviour on the court in Miami earlier today," he wrote.
I disrespected the game I love and for that I am truly sorry. By way of explanation, I felt deeply unnerved during a meeting between players and ATP executives last night, and I underestimated the toll those emotions took on me until I stepped onto the court today.
"Again, I am sorry for my on-court behaviour and the language I used. #players.”
Where this goes from here remains to be seen.
The Telegraph reports that while the ATP have been "almost invisible" during the Covid-19 pandemic and Pospisil struggled "to create a convincing alternative to the ATP’s admittedly distant way of doing things".
Pospisil and Djokovic announced the formation of the PTPA before last year’s US Open, and both then resigned from the ATP Tour Council. However, the PTPA does not seem to have gained much traction and has certainly not gained support from other top players, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray all now on the Player Council.
American John Isner hinted at the dissatisfaction among players in his pre-Miami press conference when he was asked about the reduced prize money.
"It's not so much about the prize money," he replied. "We don't really want to make it about that. Maybe it's about tour structure that the players would like to have a little bit more, I guess, better knowledge of as to why decisions are made, what went into making each decision."
This appears to be a situation that could get worse before it gets better.
Djokovic books showdown with home favourite Nishikori after marching into quarters
Murray's Olympic love affair ends with doubles defeat